Good Afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to another edition of the Saturday Night Spotlight. I am your host, KDawg. The fifth installment of my weekly series has the Detroit Lions peering across the lines at the St. Louis Rams, at HOME in Detroit, MI, at Ford Field. This game has me particularly stoked, because I truly believe that we WILL win this week. Obviously, the Lions are now 0-4 on the season. With 4 weeks of the regular season already behind us, once again I will reveal who I believe will be the key players, on the Lion's offense and defense, for the Lions to come away with their first win of the season (again). The injury report looks a bit better this week, so that should not be as great of a factor as it has been in weeks prior. As usual, I will provide you with the logic behind the reasoning for my picks, including stats. I am going to go out on a limb and say that we WILL win this game, but once again anything can happen on any given Sunday. VICTORY can be ours, and I'll tell you why and how as the SNS W5E begins after the jump...Ok...so vanilla intro aside, I think we should all be pretty excited this week. The Rams are by far the worst team that we have faced this season, and they are ultimately beatable. Our Lions have played pretty well, against some fine opponents this year so far, in my opinion. I dare say that if they play as well as they did against ANY of their opponents thus far, they will beat the Rams with ease. The Rams run a 4-3 defense, and they have 3 players on that defense that I wish we had (and could have had). James Hall, who has been playing very well for the Rams, was once a Lion. Hall was traded to the St. Louis Rams from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft where he played out the final year of his second NFL contract (I hated this trade). He is on pace to be a pro bowler this season, with 12 tackles and 4 sacks in 4 games.
At middle linebacker, the Rams have James Laurinaitis, who has 26 tackles and a sack in 4 games. James is an excellent MLB, with great instincts for the ball. He was drafted in the 2nd round (pick 35) of the 2009 draft. Now I know that many of you will say that Louis Delmas was a better pick (pick 33), but I think that many can also agree that our linebackers may very well be worse than our secondary. If we had Laurinaitis in the middle, then Levy could play his natural OLB position. True, we would not have Delmas if we had Laurinaitis...so the debate is 6 in one and half a dozen in the other. That said, we also COULD have had Oshiomogho Atogwe. I think, in hindsight of course, maybe we would have been better off drafting James Laurinaitis and going after Atogwe to fill the spot at safety.
Regardless, we have what we have...Delmas at safety and an injured Levy. As such, among other glaring issues, we have the 26th ranked total defense, while the Rams have the 23rd ranked defense overall. The Rams are ranked 21st in the league against the pass, and 20th against the run. They are clearly beatable offensively. In our favor, the Lions are surprisingly ranked 7th in the NFL in passing offense, with 1017 passing yards, a 6.1 yard average, and 254.2 yards passing per game. Unfortunately, the Lions are also 25th in rushing offense, with a paltry 321 rushing yards, a 3.7 yard average per carry, and only 80.2 yards per game. I believe all of that can change very quickly against St. Louis however, and I fully expect the Lions to look to establish the run early and often. Jahvid Best is listed as questionable with the turf toe injury, and I think his performace will be a major factor in the outcome of this game (I do not see Smith or Morris having a huge game, and Aaron Brown is out).
Beside the fact that I feel our running game will once again be a major factor, I feel that our passing game will be THE key to victory this week. Shaun Hill HAS been looking better recently, and the Ram corners are nothing special. I think that the key player on offense this week is going to be Calvin Johnson, and whether or not he can create separation, get open, and make big plays will be the key to a Lion victory this week. CJ will most likely be matched up against Bradley Fletcher this week, who is the best corner the Rams have. Fletcher has 17 tackles and 2 INTs this year, and he is certainly beatable. I think the Lions would do very well to target Calvin Johnson regularly in this game. In week 3, Santana Moss had 6 catches for 124 yards and a TD against the Rams, so I think we can all agree that CJ should have a huge game. If he does not, then I certainly hope that someone else does or else we will be in big trouble. This does not mean that our running game, or the rest of our receivers are any less important this week, it just means that Calvin Johnson is our best weapon and that he SHOULD be the key to our victory IF Linehan calls the plays to utilize him, IF Hill can get him the ball, AND if CJ can go out there and make it happen.
Defensively, it is really a no brainer. The Lions have to stop Steven Jackson, plain and simple. If Jackson is allowed to run free, and have a big game, then Sam Bradford will not look anything like a rookie QB against us and he will probably see his first 300 yard passing day against the Lions. IF the Lions can bottle up Steven Jackson, and put pressure on Bradford early, then they may be able to force him to make some mistakes. Since Levy is officially ruled out for this game, Landon Johnson will be playing MLB. He is my key player this week on defense. Moreover, the middle of our defensive line is going to have to be very solid, and our outside linebackers will have to play well also, if we will have any hope of stopping Steven Jackson. But, since Landon Johnson is a backup, I name him the key player because if he is not able to stuff the run up the middle when Suh and Williams are blocked, then we will see Steven Jackson in our defensive backfield (or worse) very often.
From what I have seen thus far from Landon Johnson, he has not been great and he has not been horrible either. I saw someone say that they are missing Larry Foote last week, and I have to agree. Without a solid MLB on our defense, we are relatively screwed against the run. Johnson has only had 10 tackles in 3 games, and I think that says a lot about how easily he has been allowed to be blocked. I am naming Landon Johnson here, but I really do not know if it will BE Johnson at MLB. I can only speculate if it will be him, Ekejiuba, or maybe Ashlee Palmer. Regardless of who it is at MLB, that player will be the key to stopping Steven Jackson, and that is the key to the Lions beating the Rams this week in my opinion. Our defense makes it nearly impossible to name ONE key player, as there are so many holes and weaknesses that it is just ridiculous. I could just as easily say that Suh or Williams will be the key player, or that Houston, Wade, or Alphonso Smith will be the key player. The fact of the matter is this; EVERYONE on our defense has to step up and play decent football in order for us to beat ANY team.
The Rams do not have a clear cut standout at WR. Mark Clayton is their WR1, and he is just an average guy. I fully expect the Rams to attempt to exploit the weakness in the middle of our defense, by throwing the ball to Michael Hoomanawanui (whosyomamaanyway) as much as possible. This even further reinforces the fact, in my mind, that Landon Johnson (or whoever we line up at MLB) is going to have to play very well. Not only is our MLB going to have to stuff the run up the middle, but also he is going to have to cover the TE over the middle. If I were the Rams, I would run it right up the middle until the Lions stopped it, and then I would pass the ball over the middle. I think pretty much any team can beat us over the middle at this point. That is why Landon Johnson or whoever is the MLB will be the key defensively for a Lion victory.
There is really not much else that I can say this week. The Lions have to stop Steven Jackson, they have to pressure, hurry, hit and sack Bradford often, and they have to get CJ the damn ball. If they can do those 3 things, then they will beat the Rams. I would be shocked if we played a game comparable to the ones against Chicago, Philadelphia, and Green Bay and still did not win. Here is to the hope that the Lions can accomplish these 3 major goals, and that we can happily say that we finally won one (officially). Here is to the hope that the Lions can overcome the opposition of the referees as well, and that they can curb the stupid mistakes that we saw last week. We could play a good game, and still lose because of penalties. I hope we hold S-Jax to less than 100 yards, no TDs, and that Bradford gets sacked 5 times at a minimum. If that happens, then our chances of VICTORY are very good this week! This has been KDawg, and you have been reading the fifth regular season edition of The Saturday Night Spotlight! Happy Football Sunday ladies and gentlemen, and GOOOOOOOOOO LIOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNSS!!!!!